January 4, 2015 – The Epiphany of the Lord
“You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit…” With those words to the Ephesians St. Paul speaks of the revelation that we celebrate on this Sunday of The Epiphany of the Lord. As a people called to stewardship, it is always enlightening to see the word “stewardship” used in Holy Scripture. That is the word used in the New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011) utilized by the U.S. Bishops in their recommended readings and other Scriptural references.
In the original Greek the word used is oikonomia that meant to the Greeks “stewardship” or “administration.” The important key for us is St. Paul’s recognition that he has been gifted by God; he has further been appointed and charged as the steward of these gifts; and that these gifts have come to him from the grace of God. The Greek word for grace (charis) is more than just a kindness or gift from God; for us it means “a gift brought to us by Jesus Christ” with the attached attitude of gratitude and thanks for that gift.
St. Paul is reminding each of us that we, too, are stewards of God’s grace, and just as he accepts that charge and calling and lives it out, we are expected to do the same. That is how we live stewardship out on a daily basis. Of course, this calling is fulfilled in the manifestation of Jesus Christ which is celebrated on this Epiphany Sunday.
As you might anticipate, each of the readings for this Epiphany celebration relate directly to The Epiphany of the Lord. The revelation of Christ’s divinity is presented to us originally by the prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. “Rise up…Your light has come. The glory of the Lord shines upon you.” It is as if through the revealing of the salvation of Christ, a bright sun, like the dawn, has broken over a dark land, and all is revealed in the splendor of the Lord. Isaiah then foresees the coming of the Magi, and he even mentions the gifts of gold and frankincense. We are called to honor the Lord with how we live our lives, in stewardship.
As mentioned St. Paul makes reference to a revelation in the second reading. He specifically says that through God’s love the “mystery was made known to me by revelation.” For us the word “ mystery” implies something perhaps dark and sinister. However, the Greek word for “mystery” also means “hidden truth.” This is the context in which Paul was writing. The Epiphany of the Lord reveals the truth about salvation to us. The mystery, of course, is the truth that Jesus came to rescue all sinners, both Jews and Gentiles. Again this is a direct reference to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi who came to honor and worship the Christ child who represents salvation for them, as well as for us.
We are fond of calling the magi “Kings”; the reality, however, is that they were most likely astronomers, truly wise men who studied and, like Isaiah, anticipated the kingship, the divinity of Jesus Christ. They are cited, and correctly so, as examples of stewardship to us. They brought gifts, yes, but even more important, they worshipped. It is important to note that they worshipped first, and then presented the gifts. Recall that it was first the shepherds, humble and poor, who came to worship the Christ child in Bethlehem. Now people of means, the Magi, also come. For us as stewards we must not lose sight of the fact that worship by all comes first, then the response of gratitude for our own gifts by returning gifts to God and to the poor.
January 4, 2015 – The Epiphany of the Lord
Ἒπιφάνεια — these symbols from the Greek alphabet and the word itself may not mean much to most of us, but this is the Greek word epiphania, which is the base word for today’s Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord. Stewardship calls us to an understanding of our Church and our faith. The Epiphany of the Lord is a vital part of our liturgical year and our Catholic tradition.
“Epiphany” literally means “becoming apparent” or “appearance.” On this day we celebrate the fact that the reality of Jesus Christ as our Lord and as the divine and human son of God becomes apparent and real to us. This manifestation, following Christmas so closely, is another reminder to us of how gifted we are. It is an additional indication to us of how essential it is for us to acknowledge our giftedness and to respond in kind through stewardship.
Many of us identify the glory and the joy of the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and as Isaiah the prophet envisages in today’s first reading, “Then shall you be radiant at what you see; your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you.” And we, as St. Paul indicates in the second reading, “are copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
December 28, 2014 – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Those words from the Gospel of Luke span several years in the life of Christ as reported in Holy Scripture. In fact, it is the most comprehensive statement in the Bible that spans Jesus from a child and throughout the years of His youth. Jesus visited the Temple at the age of 12, and this statement covers the years of His life until He was a young man.
We could reflect entirely on what this one statement means, as there are several implications, including an emphasis by Luke on Jesus’ humanity. On this Feast of the Holy Family, it is important that we realize that the path of Jesus’ growth and development was the same as that of all children. The key word here, however, is “wisdom.” We may conclude that “wisdom” means knowledge, but it has a much deeper meaning here. Knowledge without the understanding of truth (wisdom) is meaningless in many ways. We are all called to wisdom by the Lord. We might say that “wisdom” means an understanding in our heart, not just our mind. Stewardship has been referred to as a “conversion of heart,” an awareness of our calling and our vocation in God’s Kingdom.
As we might imagine, each of the readings for this Feast of the Holy Family speaks to aspects of family life. Our first reading is from the Book of Sirach. Sirach is among the longest books in the Bible with 51 chapters. Chapter 3 from which our reading today is taken accentuates the relationship expected between a child and his or her parents. We are called to respect and honor and love (kindness) our fathers and mothers.
In his letter to the Colossians, our second reading, St. Paul points out the important virtues needed by parents and children, the family unit. He admonishes us to “…put on…heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” Of course, treating parents, children, and siblings in that way is not always easy. Those virtues are also important aspects of stewardship. If we view our families and the relationships within them as part of our stewardship effort, we are moving toward the achievement of the real counsel St. Paul is offering: “And over all these put on love.” There is no question that a family that shares love has a rapport that allows them to be unified as one, especially, again following Paul’s guidance, to “let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” To find a true conversion of heart (see Sirach above) the presence of Christ is imperative.
As indicated at the opening of this reflection, the Gospel from Luke speaks of the Holy Family directly and the relationship and development among St. Joseph, our Blessed Mother, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately after this particular Gospel reading, Luke launches into St. John the Baptist and Jesus’ public ministry. Throughout that narrative we become aware of the Holy Spirit working through everyone and everything. When Luke writes “…and the favor of God was upon him,” Luke is speaking of the Holy Spirit as that favor and grace.
Thus, if we as individuals strive to respect, honor, forgive, and love one another, we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to make our personal families and the family of God, our faith community and family, “strong and filled with wisdom.” As Mother Teresa once said: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
December 28, 2014 – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, the second reading on this Feast of the Holy Family, points out qualities which not only are commendable in family members, but also in those who pursue stewardship as a way of life. Paul says, “Put on…heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” That is good advice under almost all circumstances.
For us the Holy Family exemplifies what it means to be a family and how members of a family need to relate to one another. Certainly all of the above virtues speak to relationships between people. St. Paul suggests that how we treat one another is one of the most important considerations to being a true follower of the Lord.
“Over all these, put on love.” How many times does Jesus remind us that the one commandment to which we need to be faithful is to “love one another?” Love is never easy, just as good stewardship is not easy. Love requires effort and commitment, and the willingness to forgive, which Paul also emphasizes. In terms of family relationships we must work at loving one another, and we especially have to strive to forgive one another. St. Paul calls love the “bond of perfection.” We cannot be perfect, of course, but we can love if we work at it. And we can use that love to make our relationships within our families better and more complete.
December 21, 2014 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” As Catholics we are so familiar with that statement, as it is the beginning of our beautiful Hail Mary prayer. It was the angel Gabriel speaking, and in our Hail Mary prayer we add the Blessed Mother’s name Mary to say “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” We could carefully evaluate each phrase of this magnificent prayer; however, on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, let us consider what it means that “the Lord is with you” before we examine how God speaks to us in all of our readings.
God was with Mary from the beginning; Gabriel is reminding her of that. God chose Mary before Mary chose God. Sometimes we get the mistaken impression in our own faith journeys that we made the decision to be faith-filled and to follow the Lord. We have been chosen by the Lord and as Christmas is upon us, we must always remember that. Jesus made it very clear to His disciples when He said to them, “You did not choose me; I chose you.” (Jn 15:16) Part of our understanding of stewardship involves us realizing that God has selected us for a particular role and vocation in life, and that good stewardship calls for us to identify that role and pursue it to build the Kingdom of God.
As you might expect, our Holy Scripture for this Fourth Sunday of Advent focuses on our calling and the imminent arrival of the Christ child. Nathan the prophet says to King David near the beginning of the first reading, “The Lord is with you.” David is reflecting on what has happened in his life. It is clear to him that God has chosen him and the Lord has done great things for him. David’s contemplation leads him to think what he can do for God. God has done wonderful things for each of us as well. Our stewardship challenge is to come up with ways that we can do good things for God and others. We understand that God cannot be outdone in generosity; we also understand that God does not necessarily need all that we might share or do. Nevertheless, we need to do those things to show our gratitude to the Lord. God is giving us an incredible gift in a few short days. We need to respond to that.
In our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul concludes his letter with “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever and ever.” Paul is reminding us that God indeed does have a plan for each of us. On this last Sunday in Advent Paul is also prompting us to remember that God’s plan for all of us is coming to fruition with the birth of Christ. Paul’s entire letter to the Romans concentrates on God’s plan for salvation, and this reading again brings us to accept that plan and glory in it at Christmas.
Finally we return to the Gospel from Luke. Over and over throughout Scripture we are reminded that “…nothing will be impossible for God.” The Angel Gabriel uses those same words with Mary. Accepting this statement as true is one of the things that makes it possible for a good steward to trust so implicitly in God. If we believe that and if we follow that, we, like our Blessed Mother, can look to the Lord and say with confidence and love, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
December 21, 2014 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
With that simple statement, our Blessed Mother Mary represents everything that a good steward must be — someone who has put total trust in God regardless the consequences. On this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent, it is imperative for all of us to keep that in mind.
Mary’s response is what each of us needs to strive for. We, too, need to be prepared to place our lives in God’s hands, and to react to whatever happens with a sense of thanksgiving and resolve. Holy Scripture reminds us these few days before we celebrate the birth of Christ that we have been on a journey, an Advent journey. This journey should have prepared us for the joy of this week, but it also should have been marked by our own ongoing conversion and effort to be better Catholics and Christians.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading “…according to the revelation of the mystery…manifested.” Jesus is the manifestation of this mystery. At Christmas, we must acknowledge this because it represents our salvation, and it is the reason why we must celebrate with great happiness. “For unto us a child is born; unto us a child is given.” (Is 9:6)
December 14, 2014 – Third Sunday of Advent
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’.” With those words St. John the Baptist responds to the priests and the Levites who are trying to ascertain who he is, and why he is. Of course, St. John the Baptist is the harbinger of Jesus Christ, most suitable on this Third Sunday of Advent.
Our readings from Isaiah and Thessalonians and the Gospel of John are all intended to prepare the way of the Lord and to assist us with our preparations for the birth of Christ. We are getting ready for the arrival of Jesus, the birth of the Christ child. That is a time of great joy for us because that means salvation is available to us. The prophet Isaiah speaks of that salvation in today’s first reading: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me in the robe of salvation.” Truly we are making ready to sing, “Joy to the world; the Lord is come.” As Isaiah reflects, the “spirit of the Lord” will be upon us.
St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Advent and Christmas are times for a joyful spirit. As Paul advises, we must work not to quench that spirit. In fact, we are called to revel in it. There are so many attitudes which may display themselves at this time of year, all which might stifle the good feelings we may have. This is not a time to have reservations; it is not a time to be indifferent; it is not a time to refute our faith; and it is so easy to become preoccupied with all of the things which are occurring to divert us from the birth of Christ. In his final message to the Thessalonians in this reading Paul calls all to “be faithful” but Paul also reminds us that this faith is based upon our acceptance of the presence and the power of God. St. Paul consistently warns us that one of the evils we must avoid is total self reliance. For Paul that is a greater threat than Satan himself.
The Gospel of John, from which today’s Gospel is drawn, is unique among the four Gospels in many ways. Scholars tend to agree that John’s Gospel was the last written of the four Gospels, and many believe that John may have read the other three Gospels before writing his. The first three Gospels tend to report what Jesus said and did in Galilee. However, John concentrates on what occurred in and around Jerusalem. All of the Gospels trace Jesus’ origins, but John makes it clear that Jesus came from heaven, that Jesus is indeed God incarnate.
John wrote his Gospel so that we might believe. That is why it is so important at this time in Advent — we are not only called to prepare, but to celebrate the arrival of Christ. One prominent theologian said this of John’s Gospel: “It is a pool in which a child might wade, and an elephant swim.” That is why we hear the Word from John as Christmas approaches — it is understood by a child, but those who seek more depth can also find it.
St. John the Baptist understands his place, his rank in relation to the Lord. When he says “I am not worthy to untie his sandal strap,” we must appreciate that untying the master’s sandals was the task of the lowest ranking servant in the household. John the Baptist is indicating that he is even lower than that. In a sense we all are. One of the key aspects of stewardship is humility. This is a time in the church year when each of us must seek and practice humility. The Lord’s birth is imminent. St. John the Baptist provided a cleansing Baptism; however, Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. We need to be prepared for that.
December 14, 2014 – Third Sunday of Advent
In his letter to the Thessalonians, our second reading for this, the Third Sunday of Advent, St. Paul gives us a summary of what it means to be a good steward: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.” That may seem simplistic, admittedly difficult, but those are indeed at the heart of a stewardship way of life.
It is worth noting as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child that stewardship is both a happy and positive way of living. It is happy because good stewards, through focusing on gratitude, view life in an upbeat and encouraging way. As a result they are not blessed because they are stewards, but they are exceedingly happy because they view all as gift and all with gratefulness.
Paul goes on to say that it is God’s will that we live like this. That does not mean that it is a mandate or an order from the Lord — He granted each of us free will. Nevertheless, because it is God’s will, rather than we must do it, we are able to do it with God’s help. During this Advent season, as Christmas approaches, is the perfect time for us to commit to lives of stewardship. By turning to God and trusting in the Lord, we can achieve this.
December 7, 2014 – Second Sunday of Advent
This time of year, Advent and Christmas, is a time which brings many memories to most of us. Often memories inspired by this time of year are filled with warmth. Pope Benedict XVI, writing many years before he became the Holy Father, put it this way:
“Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to us as humans. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.… It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Our readings during this season of hope should challenge us while at the same time bringing us that comfortable feeling of hope — hope in the Lord and hope in salvation. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah trumpets that good feeling, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says my God.” We hear much from Isaiah during this season because he presents to us so much that is familiar with what we should feel during this season. In today’s reading Isaiah reminds us that we should “prepare the way of the Lord,” as well as using the phrase “glad tidings.” Any troubles we have can be removed by love. Our burdens are removed when our sins are pardoned. This is part of our Advent experience, or at least it should be. We are given the opportunity to renew, to redirect, and to reconcile ourselves with God. That is what we should be about.
St. Peter opens his discourse in the second reading with “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.” You do not have to be very observant to sense the anticipation of children for Christmas. The time does indeed seem to move slowly. Of course, their anticipation is based upon the secular celebrations of the season. Nevertheless, it is worth us noting that anticipation and excitement because it is the same exhilaration we should feel about the arrival of the Christ child. Peter continues later in this reading to say, “Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish, before him, at peace.” This is a time of hope, but it is also a time for us to renew and reconcile. And, yes, as St. Peter reminds us, we are indeed beloved.
Our Gospel reading is appropriately the first eight verses of the Gospel of Mark. St. Mark echoes Isaiah as he proclaims to us, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Advent is a time of preparation. That preparation must really occur in our hearts. It has often been said that stewardship is not a conversion of mind but a conversion of heart. That is the kind of conversion to which we are called during this Advent season. John the Baptist understood that the Baptisms he performed were merely a prelude to the real Baptism with the Holy Spirit. That Baptism, brought to us by Christ, is where we find salvation through repentance.
December 7, 2014 – Second Sunday of Advent
“One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Many of us may recall that proclamation from St. John the Baptist. It certainly reflects the humility expected from all of us as stewards of the Lord.
Nevertheless, there is a deeper meaning in that statement which has both implication and applicability to us and our lives. At that time, the time of John the Baptist and Jesus, one of the basic teachings of Jewish rabbis was that a teacher might demand almost anything of his students and followers with one exception: that was to remove the teacher’s sandals. John tells us he is not worthy to do even that. This Advent season asks us to evaluate how we relate to God, and how prepared we are to serve Christ as His disciple, His steward.
Are we worthy? That is the question we need to be asking ourselves. And the truth is that none of us are worthy of the sacrifice and salvation provided us by the Lord. Jesus brings us an immersion in the Holy Spirit which takes us beyond this life and this understanding. Are we ready? It is time to get ready. Saint Pope John Paul II said, “The whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ.”
November 30, 2014 – First Sunday of Advent
“Brothers and Sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the greeting used by St. Paul in today’s second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This salutation is used by Paul five times in the New Testament. Grace is always first followed by peace. That is most likely because without grace there can be no peace. Peace naturally follows grace. Grace is the blessings we receive from God, the gifts to which we respond with gratitude as stewards.
This is the First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday in our liturgical Church year as a matter of fact. Advent means “arrival” or “beginning.” We are preparing for the arrival of the Christ child, but we are also initiating our Church year, and we are beckoned to evaluate our lives in Christ and to make an effort to deepen and expand that relationship.
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah is a prayer. In that prayer Isaiah calls out to God to “return” as if He has gone away. What the prayer says first, however, is “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” Advent is a time for us to try to refocus on God, to quit wandering, and to return to walk with the Lord as we prepare for His coming. “Our guilt carries us away like the wind.” Temptation and sin are powerful forces — typhoon winds — and without God’s assistance we can be carried away by that. Advent is the time to turn back to God, to prepare, to begin anew.
St. Paul, in the second reading, offers thanks to God. The last five verses of today’s reading are a prayer of thanksgiving. “I give thanks to my God always…” Stewardship summons us to live lives of thanksgiving and gratitude. Paul understood that. Viewing life from the perspective of our blessings is an excellent way to prepare for Christmas. Four times in this reading Paul refers to Jesus as the Lord Jesus Christ. In Greek and Hebrew translations the name “Lord” is interchangeable with the name “Yahweh.” This is truly the one and only God. Jesus is, of course, the given name of the Christ child. “Jesus” is the Greek pronunciation of the Hebrew “Joshua,” and Joshua in Hebrew means “Yahweh is salvation.” And the name “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” meaning the “anointed one.” As we prepare for the arrival of the Christ child, Paul has it all included in that phrase Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we truly prepared for the Kingdom of God? Does our preparation include prayer often? Does it cause us to live God-centered lives that bring us ongoing renewal and conversion? These are all questions that are answered more easily if we pursue stewardship as a way of life. In the five verses of our Gospel from Mark today Jesus gives great emphasis to being watchful, being alert, and twice merely says “Watch!” This is not an admonition to just “be on the lookout,” but a reminder that we must be ever ready. The Lord reminds us often in Scripture that we cannot and do not know the time and place of His coming. In today’s Gospel He tells us, “You do not know when the time will come,” and “You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.” Advent is the perfect time to take time each day, more than once each day if possible, to pray as an individual and as families; to turn to God; and to be alert, eager, and ready.
November 30, 2014 – First Sunday of Advent
On this First Sunday of Advent, we are invited to examine our relationship to God as we prepare for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is a time for us to deepen our connection to the Lord through various opportunities and paths. As sinners we are expected to reconcile with God.
In the Gospel from Mark, Jesus advises us to “Be watchful! Be alert!” The Lord is not speaking about next week, nor even the Christmas for which we prepare. This is something He expects us to do today, this instant. Christ makes reference to a Master who, like God, leaves others in charge of His household. God expects each of us to be stewards of His household.
He has left us His household, His Church, and we are supposed to build and maintain that. He has given us free will; in other words God has given us authority over the gifts He has given us. Finally, He expects each of us to fulfill our role in His Kingdom. Stewardship invites every one of us to participate and to contribute to the good of the whole, our faith community — not next week, not just at Christmas, but now. “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1: 9)
November 23, 2014 – The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
“Come, you who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Jesus states those words as His invitation to each of us to join Him in His Kingdom. Of course, he also includes some provisos that require us to demonstrate Christian love — including feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.
Today we commemorate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The Kingdom of God that Jesus represents is referred to often in the Bible. In fact, in the four Gospels, the word “kingdom” appears very often. The Gospel of Mark mentions the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven” 14 times; Luke 32 times; Matthew 37 times; John 2 times. Jesus is the Lord of all Creation. We understand that this kingdom is not the kind with which we are familiar in the secular world. In fact, the Lord makes the point over and over that it is not of this earth. Nevertheless, Jesus’ initial announcement when He begins His ministry is with the prophetic words “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus is a different kind of king. The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel stresses the idea of the Lord as the Good Shepherd. “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” To emphasize that He is this shepherd, God speaks first hand to us in this reading. Eleven times He uses the personal pronoun “I.” He makes it clear from “I will tend my sheep” to “I will rescue” to “I will heal.” All of this as prophecy anticipates the Messiah, and the use of this personal pronoun makes it clear that the Messiah will be more than a man. It is also worth noting the Responsorial Psalm for this Solemnity is the beautiful and poetic 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This trust in God, this belief in Him as the Shepherd and the Guardian, is that trust that allows us to live lives of stewardship — lives that know that He will protect us and be with us and whatever commitments we make through stewardship, God will enable us to succeed.
In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Paul also refers to the kingdom and the reign of God. He uses a term for Christ that has a strong stewardship connection. Paul tells us that Christ is the “first fruits” –that is, He is at the basis of all our faith and all our hope. Through stewardship we are to return our first fruits to the Lord in gratitude and thanksgiving. In fact, the Greek word aparche means “first fruits” and it is that word that is used both to describe Jesus and to call us to make that offering to God.
Jesus’ reminder to us in the Gospel of Matthew that we will be judged based upon how we treat others, as He can be found in all others, and we need to recognize that, is poignant and touching. The ongoing challenge of stewardship and the obstacle to a Christian life for many of us can be found in the word “apathy.” That is what Jesus is telling us: that it is not just a question of what we do, but that our attitude toward this is equally condemning. We may think that not turning our back on those in need is all right, but the Lord is telling us that even though we may feel that we have done nothing immoral, our lack of interest in the needs of others is just as bad. We must not be unconcerned about the gifts God has given us; in fact, we need to use those gifts to build the Kingdom of God. And we certainly cannot show a lack of care for those in need. Jesus has made this point throughout His ministry. The cost of indifference is as great as that of openly mistreating others. Even the well known author and playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that is the essence of inhumanity.”
November 23, 2014 – The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” Jesus does not make it easy for any of us when He says that. Even those who practice stewardship faithfully, even the best among us, have times when they may turn their back on those in need. The Solemnity that we celebrate today is popularly known as Christ the King.
It is in Church terms relatively new. Instituted in 1921 by Pope Pius XI, it was originally on the last Sunday of October. It was renamed in 1969 by Pope Paul VI and moved to its present date, which is the last Sunday in the liturgical year, the last Sunday before Advent. The edict issued by Pope Pius XI in 1925 was called Quas Primas. It stated “It has long been a custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of ‘King.’ He is King of Hearts by reason of His ‘charity which exceedeth all knowledge’.”
Today’s readings trace our Lord Jesus Christ from “the shepherd who tends his flock” to the “first fruits” to the “king.” As stewards of His Word, His Kingdom, and His Hope, He invites us to see Him in everyone we see and everyone we encounter so that we can finally hear His glorious declaration, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.”
November 16, 2014 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Come share your master’s joy.” With those words the master in the Parable of the Talents, found in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, invites his servants to join him, to be with Him in heaven. That is the primary stewardship message found in today’s readings, but each of the readings provides insights into what is truly important, or at least what should be crucial in our lives and in how we live them.
As we hear it and assimilate it, the first reading from Proverbs may seem very unlike the Gospel, but there is an implication within the reading which we frequently miss. The covert meaning of this scriptural passage is found in the statement, “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting.” The true challenge to us in living Christian lives of stewardship is to determine what is truly significant in relation to our lives. In this instance the reference is to the ideal for a wife. That model woman has as her most noteworthy component virtue. A virtuous and good woman is rewarded in the same way as the faithful stewards in the Gospel. She is to be “praised” and given a “reward.” Being able to separate this mental appreciation from an emotional one is difficult, and that is one of the many struggles we face in living lives of stewardship.
Thessalonica was the capital city of the Roman Province of Macedonia. Saint Paul traveled there after he was ousted from Philippi. Paul was in Philippi for only three days, but he was in Thessalonica for a much longer time. In fact, we know that he was there for at least three weeks and probably longer, as he makes reference to preaching there on three successive Sabbath days. He uses a phrase in today’s second reading, “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night,” which has a meaning parallel to the message in the first reading. Jesus made it clear that there was no way we could anticipate nor know when He would come again (“…that day and hour no one knows.” Matthew 24:36). Paul’s point to the Thessalonians and to us is that we must be prepared. That is not easy for us when we are caught up in the day to day burdens and tasks of our lives, but pursuing a life of stewardship is one of the means by which we can be prepared. Stewardship is a God-centered way of living. It calls for us to be aware and grateful every minute of every day. Through prayer and a planned way of living we are constantly renewed and brought back to what should be most important.
Saint Paul goes on to write of darkness and light. Darkness is when we live in sin, when we do not accept nor recognize the constant presence (and strengthening support) of God. Are we like the Thessalonians to whom Paul refers, “…all of you are children of the light,” or do we stray from what should be the real purpose of our lives — to experience rebirth and conversion over and over so that we are truly prepared for that time which none of us can know.
Depending upon definition Jesus shared roughly 40 parables with us. Of those more than half address the issue of possessions and finances. It was not that the Lord had great interest in those, but He knew that we do, and that it was an issue to which we could relate. Today’s Gospel includes the Parable of the Talents. A “talent” in this instance is not a skill or ability, but a unit of money — in fact, a large amount of money. Jesus was fond of referring to the master or the father in His parables, and that was a direct reference to God. In this parable the master provides three servants, three stewards, with varying amounts. It is the same for us; each of us has been given varying amounts of gifts for which we are responsible. Stewardship of those gifts is how we use them, and especially how we use them to serve God, to help build His Kingdom.
Just as in the first two readings, it is clear that we have a choice. The two stewards who are rewarded with places in the Kingdom of God (“Come share your master’s joy.”) do not neglect their gifts. They develop them and return them with increase to the master, to the Lord. Stewardship calls us to do the same thing.